Driving north out of Lafayette on I-65, the roadway rises from the Wabash River valley towards the flatlands of corn and bean fields.
Something catches the eye just over the last rise, the tip of an immense airplane propeller, then another, and yet another appear just above the trees.
Fortunately, it’s not a jumbo airliner coming your way, it’s the beginning of wind farms with hundreds of wind turbines that stretch away for miles from east to west.
The first wind farms in Indiana were built west of White County in Benton County where economic development director Kelly Kepner noted the height of the columns for Orion’s 87 turbines is 240 feet. Add the height of the generator at 22 feet, and the length of the blades at 110 feet, and the total height is 372 feet from the ground up.
Energy supplied by wind farms goes a long way in diminishing the environmental impact of power production from fossil fuel sources and offers a valuable source of renewable energy.
Meadow Lake Wind Farm alone provides enough energy to power 138,000 Indiana homes. Like the companies in Benton County, EDP Renewables is also planning to add another phase of wind farms.
For a close-up look at a working wind farm, Kepner’s organization offers tours in Benton County.
“We do offer tours and our season runs from April to October,” Kepner said. “We have done very well with our tours.”
Kepner can accommodate different sized groups, with groups of 20, or the cost is $5 per person and $3 per child or student with an ID. Groups under 20 are charged a flat $75 fee.
Tours began in 2010, and since then more than 3,600 visitors have come through Kepner’s doors. She said tours have brought in over $16,000 in revenue that goes back into marketing and presentations.
“Most people have come out of curiosity, but we get a lot of schools, a lot of educational tours,” Kepner said.
Groups come from all over. One group of homeschoolers came from Washington State on an educational vacation, and others come from Purdue University classes and other institutions.
Tours begin with a video presentation developed by the tour leader–a retired teacher–with footage of sections of tower and turbines arriving on trucks, and aerial footage of power lines being installed. The video also covers overall information about wind farm developers, how the turbines are built, and how energy from the turbines is turned into power for homes.
The next stop is a hands-on look at a turbine blade outside the building before heading to the Orion wind farm. “They sign a waiver, then are allowed to walk up to within about 50 feet of a running turbine,” Kepner explained. “They can hear the sound the turbine makes, and get great pictures laying on their backs looking up at spinning turbine blades.”
Kepner said tours take about an hour and offer a great look into those spinning propellers in the sky in northern Indiana.
For information about tours contact Kepner at (765) 884-2080, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you’re there:
The Western Indiana Sustainable Energy Resource (WISER) group, a BioTown USA educational outreach, offer additional Wind Farm and Clean Energy Tours. Groups can select touring a Wind Farm, Liberty Landfill, Norway Dam, or an Anaerobic Digester site.
White County Economic Development